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62               A SEARCH IN SECRET EGYPT
path so that I drew back, startled, until I realized it was my own. In this weird place one expected everything; nothing was too strange to happen. Slipping and crawling the comparatively short remaining distance, I was relieved to find myself at the end of the descent and upon a level floor, but inside a still smaller tunnel I crawled forward about ten more yards and then arrived at the open entrance to the strangest room I had ever seen—the so-called Pit. It was a little less than fifty feet from wall to wall on its longest side.
This gloomy vault, which lies beneath the exact centre of the Pyramid, gave to the eye an impression of a task hurriedly abandoned; it seemed to be a chamber whose excavation out of the solid rock was suddenly stopped. The ceiling had been well cut but the floor rolled up and down like a trench that had been bombarded. The old Egyptian masons usually worked downwards in cutting rock vaults and therefore finished the floors last; why this particular floor should never have been finished when more than a lifetime of labour at least was later devoted to building the superstructure that rose above the rock level, is an archaeological nut which no one has yet been able to crack. But then, the whole Pyramid itself is really such a nut.
I flashed my torch into the turgid gloom of the vault and focused a beam of light upon the centre of the floor. I moved closer and peered over the edge of a deep yawning hole, mute testimony to the one-time presence of treasure-seekers, who had fruitlessly and laboriously excavated a pit within the Pit. I felt the unpleasant touch of the wings of a bat as it flew past my head and squawked around the airless room. Down in the hole I noticed the light disturb the sleep of three other bats, which hung upside down on the roughly cut sides. I moved away, awakening two more bats which hung suspended from the ceiling. Alarmed and bewildered as I thrust the light mercilessly upon them, they scurried to and fro, also squawking, and then disappeared into the gloom of the entrance passage.
I climbed over the hilly floor and reached the farther end of the chamber, where a tiny level tunnel presented itself in the wall. It was just wide enough to enable one to squirm inside but too low to permit anything else except crawling dead flat upon the stomach. The floor was thickly covered with the dust of several thousand years and the journey was anything